Imagined futures of same-sex couples
This research explores how older same-sex couples in Scotland imagine their future. While there is a growing number of sociological studies looking at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) ageing, these mostly focus on the intersection of age and sexual identity, often leaving out the impact of the past and present lived experiences on the ageing process. Sociological studies of time, and, more specifically, of the future, often exclude older populations due to assumptions that older people belong to a non-futurity (Sandberg 2015) because they are closer to the end of their lives. Similarly, studies on sexuality tend to explore younger people’s experiences, invoking the idea of the asexual older age. By drawing on Adam and Groves’ (2007) theory of imagined futures, Mead’s (1934) work on the role of time in constructing identities, and May’s (2013) idea that the self and society are relational, this research argues for the exploration of older age and the future as mutually constructive. To that end, the thesis asks the following question: How do older same sex couples navigate the intersections of sexuality and ageing in imagining their futures? In answering this question, the research addresses the future needs, hopes, concerns, and fears of older same-sex couples in Scotland, and explores how the lived experiences of the participants’ past and present figure in the imagination of their futures. Drawing on fourteen semi-structured joint interviews with seven same-sex couples in Scotland, and on written accounts the couples produced between the interviews, the research explores the construction of the couples’ past, present and future lived experiences. The interviews and written accounts highlight the role of the past and present in the couples’ imagination of the future, which is conceptualised through collective, interpersonal and imagined relationships. The findings also show that not only do these couples think about the future, but they also actively participate in its formation, through political activism and public engagement, imagining the future of Scotland as utopian. Based on these findings, the research argues for a closer examination of the relational aspect of personal biographies and the socio-historical contexts of people’s lives in studies about the experience of ageing in same-sex couples. By exploring the lives of older same-sex couples, and by presenting their stories and sharing their hopes, fears, and imaginations of the future with a wider audience, this research gives a voice to a (still) invisible population in ageing and sexuality studies. From an empirical perspective, the research investigates the lived experiences of older same-sex couples in Scotland within the socio-political contexts of their youth, middle, and older age, and explores the couples’ joint constructions of their futures. Methodologically, the study contributes to the utilisation of semi-structured joint interviews in conducting qualitative research and exploring couple relationships. The thesis argues for a reconceptualization of the argument that older people have no future agency by focusing on the narratives the participants shared about their imagined short- and long-term futures. Finally, the thesis presents the idea that the interpersonal, collective and imagined relationships the participants formed during their lifetimes allowed them to imagine the future as utopian, constructing their imagination from specific cultural and historical events.